Colombia

Calabrian connection in Brazil narco busts

Brazilian police on Sept. 18 arrested a man accused as a leader of the notorious First Capital Command drug gang, who was named as a top contact in South America of southern Italy's 'Ndrangheta crime network. Andre de Oliveira Macedo AKA "Andre do Rap," detained in Sao Paolo in an operation that included US DEA agents, is said to have overseen massive cocaine exports to Europe via Italy's southern region of Calabria. (Gazzetta del Sud, Calabria, Sept. 18) In July, police arrested two Italian nationals at a luxury seaside apartment in Sao Paulo state, who were also said to be 'Ndrangheta operatives. Nicola Assisi and his son were held in an undisclosed location to await extradition to Italy. A month earlier, accused top 'Ndrangheta figure Rocco Morabito escaped from a prison in Uruguay—angering Rome, which had been awaiting his extradition. (The Local, Italy, July 9)

Bolsonaro to The Hague?

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro failed to attend the summit of leaders of seven South American countries with Amazon Basin territory to address the devastating fires now consuming the rainforest. Duque claimed a medical emergency, and was represented by his foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo, at the meeting in Colombia's Amazonian city of Leticia on Sept. 6. The presidents of Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia as well as Araujo, the natural resouces minister of Guyana and vice president of Suriname agreed to form an "Amazonian cooperation network" to track deforestation across borders. Venezuela, despite having a large swath of Amazonian territory, was not invited, as Colombia does not recognize the presidency of Nicolas Maduro. Brazil has the largest share of the Amazon by far, and Bolsonaro's failure to attend was assailed by environmentalists worldwide. 

Ex-FARC commander calls for return to arms

Top FARC leaders Iván Marquez and Jesús Santrich appeared in a YouTube video on Aug. 29, alongside some 20 other veteran fighters, all in battle fatigues, to announce they are returning to guerilla insurgency and will launch "a new stage of armed struggle." Reading the manifesto, Marquez, standing beside notorious FARC rebel leaders such as "El Paisa," charged that "the state has betrayed the Havana Accords," the 2016 peace deal under which the FARC has laid down arms. "We announce to the world that the second Marquetalia has begun," he said, referring to the village in Tolima department where the FARC was founded in May 1964. He said they would seek to join forces both with the FARC "dissidents" who have remained in arms despite the peace deal, as well as the rival National Liberation Army (ELN).

US 'committed' to 'dismantle' Colombia's ELN

The United States government is "committed" to "dismantle" Colombia's remaining significant guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), federal prosecutor Zachary Terwilliger said Aug. 8. The US attorney for the Eastern District of Virgina made the comment after he and six other federal prosecutors met with President Ivan Duque on a visit to Bogotá to discuss cooperation "to fight narco-terrorism," as Terwilliger put it in a tweet. Terwilliger said the Colombian government "counts on the full support of the United States Department of Justice in the common cause to destabilize, decimate and ultimately dismantle the ELN." The guerilla group has been active since 1964 and is currently believed to have 4,000 fighters. The ELN was engaged in peace talks with Duque's predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, but the talks were suspended by Duque when he took office a year ago.

Indigenous target in Colombia human rights crisis

The Colombia office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Aug. 11 urged the government to effectively protect the lives and physical and cultural integrity of the Nasa indigenous people amid a wave of assassinations in their territory in the southern department of Cauca. The statement noted attacks on members of the Nasa Indigenous Guard over the past 24 hours, in which two were killed—Gersain Yatacué in the community of Toribio and Enrique Güejia in the community of Tacueyo. These brought to 36 the members of the Nasa people killed so far this year, according to Alberto Brunori, the UN human rights officer for Colombia. That is nine more than in the same period last year, which Brunori said points to an "alarming situation" in Cauca. (Prensa Latina, Aug. 11)

Colombia: Duque expelled from rights march

Protesters expelled Colombia's President Ivan Duque from one of many marches that were held throughout the country on July 26 to protest the ongoing killing of human rights defenders and community leaders. More than 50 marches drew tens of thousands of people in the mass event organized by Defendamos la Paz, a civil organization that defends the country's peace process that is opposed by Duque's far-right party. Duque and his vice president Marta Lucía Ramírez attempted to join the march in Cartagena, but upon arriving at its gathering point in the city's central plaza, they were chased off by angry protesters chanting "Assassin! Assassin!" (Colombia Reports, Pulzo, Contagio Radio)

Who is behind Venezuela aid caravan?

The US scored a propaganda coup against besieged Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro last week, sending planeloads of "humanitarian aid" to Colombia, where it was dispatched in a "caravan" toward the border. The aid was welcomed by the US-backed pretender to the presidency, Juan Guaidó, but rejected by Maduro, who thundered that Venezuelans are "not beggars." Maduro was put in the no-win situation of either having to turn away aid at a time of deprivation or accept assistance sent by a government that does not recognize him but recognizes his opposition. He opted for the prior, mobilizing troops to the border and blocking the three lanes of the international bridge between the two countries with a fuel tanker and shipping containers. The caravan is currently stalled at Cúcuta, the nearest city on the Colombia side. (The Guardian, AP) While the affair has occasioned much media bloviation either against Maduro for blocking the caravan or against Trump for politicizing aid, there has been an alarming paucity of information about who actually organized the caravan...

Colombia sliding deeper into internal war

Under pressure to address the ongoing wave of targeted assassinations in Colombia, President Iván Duque Jan. 30 for the first time spoke before the National Commission to Guarantee Security, formed by the previous government to address continuing violence in the country—which has only worsened since he took office last year. Duque said 4,000 people are now under the government's protection program for threatened citizens. But his office implied that the narco trade is entirely behind the growing violence. Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutiérrez told the meeting: "This great problem is derived from the 200,000 hectares of illicit crops that we have in Colombia." (Espectador, Jan. 30)

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